Those of you who know me are well aware that I waste far too much time each fall watching college football. I make no apologies...I love it. Like any sports fan, I enjoy sports analogies. So, couple that with my passion to share insights and help others navigate their careers, well you know where I am headed.
One of the many great things about my current job is that I get to speak with each and every newly minted Information Warfare Officer as they begin their journey in our Information Warfare Basic Course (IWBC). The last time I addressed the group, I spoke of "Things I Did Not Learn In The Basic Course." Since then, I have enjoyed individual sessions with young Sailors and in one recent session a young man made it a point to personally acknowledge that he alone was responsible for his career. There was a time when I truly believed that to be the case for everyone, but I no longer see it that way.
Just like football where the league is filled with great running backs, the workplace is filled with tremendous talent (at least that is the case where I work). When all running backs have similar physical attributes and are equally adept at finding the open field, more often than not, the difference in outcome is determined by the blockers they have in front of them. Though few of us in the workplace have the physical attributes of a collegiate running back (I personally know of none), we do usually start our respective careers on equal footing with similar levels of both ability and potential. What makes the difference for most of us is the number of people we give reason to block for us along the way. I say "give reason" because not everyone is willing to go out of their way to create opportunities for those running in their wake. As someone who takes great pride in blocking for others, my default is to help another gain yardage. That said, the level of effort I use after initial contact varies on the attributes of the individual for whom I am blocking. There are some for whom I call in additional blockers; there are some who, when they fumble the ball, I stop to pick it up and put it back in their hands; and there are still others whom I help to tackle (Commitment to the Institution).
I guess all I am trying to say is that as individuals we need to do our part to give others reason to help us to reach career goals. And as we begin to find ourselves in positions to mentor others, we should be deliberate in our levels of support. We must consider our responsibility to look out for our best and brightest, to force everyone to reach toward their potential in the process, and to ensure we demonstrate a commitment to the insitution by providing off-ramps for those who aren't meeting the mark.
WE are responsible for our careers and, yes, WE are dependent on many others to help us achieve our goals and reach our potential. The best running back rarely has the most yards, the most touchdowns or wins the Heisman, but it's the running back behind the best line that may very well have all three.
Build your line, run hard and block for those in your wake!